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NFL mock draft roundup: Experts expect Pats to go pass rusher or safety in Round 1

04.26.12 at 12:53 pm ET
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The 2012 NFL draft is just hours away and the national media has made its final projections as to which players are going where. Here’s a roundup of who some of the nation’s top draft experts expect the Patriots to select in the coming days. These mock drafts range from one-round to full seven-round projections. However, the Patriots are without any picks after Round 4 due to trades.

Disclaimer: These projections are all made in the highly unlikely case that the Patriots do not trade any of their picks this year.

Mel Kiper: ESPN

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Courtney Upshaw, OLB, Alabama: A couple weeks ago, Upshaw falling all the way to the Patriots seemed like a pipe dream. Now, scouts have picked apart Upshaw’€™s measurable and appear to have dropped him down their boards in favor of players like Syracuse’s Chandler Jones. Kiper expects Belichick to look past that in favor of Upshaw’€™s tenacity and skills against the run and pass, getting both value and need with his first selection.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: Kiper projects the Patriots filling their other big need on the roster with the No. 2-ranked safety in the draft. Although, Kiper does mention that Belichick could go for a cornerback here if the right player falls to him. Smith is a guy that’€™s been rising but gets good reviews from Kiper as a player that plays well up in the box.

Todd McShay: ESPN

Round 1, Pick 27 ‘€“ Shea McClellin, DE/OLB, Boise St: McShay didn’€™t provide any analysis for his picks, but the McClellin selection doesn’€™t require much at this point. A versatile player against the pass and the run, McClellin is a rising player who hasn’€™t received much criticism through the entire process.

Round 1, Pick 31 ‘€“ Harrison Smith, S, Notre Dame: McShay’€™s mock echoes his colleague’€™s with the second selection and is part of a trend throughout a lot of these mocks, where the Patriots are expected to go for a safety and an edge rusher in the first round.

Round 2, Pick 16 ‘€“ Kendall Reyes, DT, UConn: McShay projects another popular projection for the Patriots, Reyes, falling to them in the second round, a scenario that Belichick & Co. would certainly jump on, should it present itself.

Round 2, Pick 31 ‘€“ Casey Hayward, CB, Vanderbilt: The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Hayward was a rock in the secondary against the SEC’€™s best receivers against some mediocre Vanderbilt teams. McShay has the Patriots going for a corner who could see playing time in early in the right situations with his physicality and ability to be aggressive in zone coverage underneath.

Round 3, Pick 30 ‘€“ James Brown, G, Troy: McShay expects the Patriots to take this college tackle and move him inside to develop him as a potential future starter. A raw talent, the 6-foot-4 Brown would play big at guard. He shows good quickness and leverage but will need to add strength and bulk in order to have success at the next level, especially inside.

Round 4, Pick 31 ‘€“ Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State: Baker was a starter as a sophomore for the Spartans but lost his job this past season to sophomore Le’€™Veon Bell, who vastly outplayed him with a comparable number of carries. In short, Baker brings the boom as a powerful runner but lacks skills in the passing game as a receiver or blocker. He also needs to show more decisiveness as a runner, rather than Laurence Maroney-ing around in the backfield.

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Mike Lombardi on D&C: Being in Bill Belichick’s war room like ‘being an analyst for a brokerage house’

04.26.12 at 11:07 am ET
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NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi joined the Dennis & Callahan show Thursday morning less than 12 hours before the NFL draft to discuss his last-minute thoughts on the draft and share his knowledge of what it is like to be in the war room with Bill Belichick.

Lombardi was director of player personnel under Belichick with the Browns and has been in the war room with Belichick during previous drafts. As such, he is one of the few people who can provide a insider assessment of what Belichick might do on draft day.

Belichick traditionally trades down to acquire additional picks, and since the Patriots have two first-round draft picks this year (No. 27 and No. 31) along with two second-rounders, Belichick certainly has picks to spare for trades. Lombardi, however, said Belichick likely will not plan anything with his picks until the first 10 picks of the draft are made.

“Ultimately, where Bill is going to start getting interested is right around Kansas City at 11,” Lombardi said. “That will probably give him an idea of what potentially can be there for him, whether he needs to move up or move back. What makes Bill so good is that there’s no sense that he’s in love with a player. He’s always going to react to the board. He’s always going to make decisions based on what’s good for the team, not necessarily what he has to fall in love with for a player.”

In Lombardi’s mock draft on, he predicted that the Patriots will select 6-foot-3, 266-pound defensive end Vinny Curry with their first pick. Curry is a pass rusher who is versatile enough to fit in either a 4-3 or 3-4 defensive scheme but has been criticized as a weak player in the running game. Lombardi was the only analyst of the seven NFL analysts to release mock drafts this week to predict that the Patriots would take Curry at No. 27.

“It’s someone from the outside,” Lombardi said to explain his choice. “He’s long. He’s athletic. He can play [multiple] positions. He can play in a 3-4. He can play in a 4-3. He can do some different things.

“I think when you get picked by the New England Patriots, especially defensively, you better be multidimensional. You better have the ability to do things, whether it’s play in the kicking game, whether it’s play two positions, whether it’s being able to feature yourself around the scheme of their 4-3 or 3-4.”

Lombardi also gave an account of what being in a draft room with Belichick is like, noting that Belichick’s draft atmosphere is controlled and sparse in personnel.

“It’s very quiet with Bill,” Lombardi said. “Everything’s very, you know, you’re studying things. It’s no different than being an analyst for a brokerage house. You’re analyzing what’s going on. You’re handicapping yourself. You’re looking at the possibilities. You’re working the trade phones. You’re trying to find out information on things to help set up what you want to do.”

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Read More: Bill Belichick, Mike Lombardi, Vinny Curry,

Mock Draft, Round 1: Patriots in line to bolster pass rush

04.26.12 at 9:19 am ET
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Draft day is here, and with it comes the final mock draft. Be sure to follow our draft coverage from Gillette Stadium Thursday night, and look for projections for the second and third rounds Friday.

1. Colts: Andrew Luck, QB, Stanford

Colts general manager Ryan Grigson said Luck will be the guy, so  there are no more jokes left to make about how obvious this pick will be.

2. Redskins (from Rams): Robert Griffin III, QB, Baylor

Another obvious pick, but here’€™s something that isn’€™t so obvious: Griffin will be better than Luck. The Redskins will just have a tough time building a supporting cast with limited picks.

3. Vikings: Matt Kalil, OT, USC

If anyone’€™s foolish enough to believe the Browns would be foolish enough to draft Ryan Tannehill fourth overall, the Vikings could trade the pick to a very foolish team.

4. Browns: Trent Richardson, RB, Alabama

Drafting a running back in the first round often has proven to be a waste, but Richardson is the best prospect at the position since Adrian Peterson.

5. Buccaneers: Morris Claiborne, CB, LSU

Ronde Barber is old and potentially moving to safety, Aqib Talib is a troublemaker and Claiborne might be even better than Patrick Peterson.

6. Rams (from Redskins): Justin Blackmon, WR, Oklahoma State

The Oklahoma State product should be able to get along fine with Oklahoma legend Sam Bradford. Blackmon should be the first receiver drafted, but don’€™t count out Michael Floyd.

7. Jaguars: Michael Floyd, WR, Notre Dame

Riley Reiff has been the pick here in previous mocks, but reports have suggested that his lack of athleticism and short arms could lead to quite the slide. If the Jaguars can’€™t replace or protect Blaine Gabbert, they might as well give him a weapon.

8. Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill, QB, Texas A&M

Tannehill isn’€™t close to being a top-10 talent, but there’€™s something to be said for the Dolphins investing a first-round pick in a signal-caller. The question is whether Tannehill is really that much better than Matt Moore.

9. Panthers: Dontari Poe, DT, Memphis

Don’€™t rule out the Panthers moving up and grabbing Floyd or Blackmon.

10. Bills: Luke Kuechly, ILB, Boston College

Laugh at the Bills all you want, but adding Mario Williams, Mark Anderson and Kuechly makes the defense not only terrifying but intelligent.

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Andrew Luck, chandler jones, Mock Draft

Draft day memories: Vince Wilfork recalls reaching the pinnacle

04.26.12 at 12:09 am ET
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On a sunny April afternoon, Vince Wilfork waited for what seemed like an eternity to find out his fate, as selection after selection were broadcast on ESPN’€™s telecast of the 2004 NFL draft. With the 21st selection, the Patriots snagged Wilfork, the fifth of a talented quintet of players from perennial college football powerhouse Miami.

Upon hearing his name called by then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue, one of Wilfork’€™s longest-running childhood dreams came to fruition.

‘€œI remember growing up, 4 years old, and telling my father that this is what I wanted to do,’€ Wilfork said. ‘€œAnd now 30 years later and nine years into the league, it’€™s an amazing feeling. It was a dream I had as a youngster, and my dream came true.’€

The 2012 NFL draft opens Thursday night and promises to be chock full of blue-chip defensive talent. Most mock drafts, including’€™s latest, have the Patriots taking defensive players with both of their first round draft choices. Names of potential defensive stars like Claiborne, Barron and Kuechly are virtual locks to be selected. But Wilfork advises that these players should not look at their selection as an opportunity to rest on one’€™s laurels.

‘€œEach one of those young men needs to understand that that is a life-changing moment,’€ Wilfork said. ‘€œWhoever gets a chance to be a part of this league should know that it’€™s a privilege.’€

Being drafted into the NFL is something that only a very select few get to experience. According to Wilfork, inclusion into this select fraternity, especially the Foxboro chapter, is not something a young player should take lightly.

‘€œThis is a business. This is your life. This is what you do,’€ Wilfork said. ‘€œA lot of people laugh, but this is our job; we get paid to play football. The quicker that they understand that this is a business, the better off they’€™ll be.’€

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, draft day memories, Paul Tagliabue, Vince Wilfork

Navy grants early release for Eric Kettani, clearing way for return to Patriots

04.25.12 at 6:53 pm ET
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The Navy announced Wednesday that it has approved a request for an early release from active duty from Eric Kettani so that the running back may return to his pursuit of an NFL career. The 24-year-old Kettani originally signed with the Patriots as an undrafted free agent in 2009 before spending two seasons on active duty with the Navy.

Kettani returned to the Patriots last July for training camp and was on the practice squad for the first five weeks of the regular season before he was unexpectedly denied leave by the Navy, which forced New England to release him from the practice squad in early October. However, the 5-foot-11, 235-pound running back has been cleared by the Navy to resume his football career. Now he’ll likely join a crowded picture at fullback that includes newcomers Spencer Larsen and Tony Fiammetta.

Read More: Eric Kettani, Spencer Larsen, Tony Fiammetta,

NFL Draft Top 10: Players with character concerns

04.25.12 at 5:11 pm ET
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If the Bill Belichick regime has emphasized any part of the NFL draft, it’s the idea that teams must evaluate a prospect’s character on and off the field just as closely as they need to monitor his physical tools and talents. Each year’s draft class provides plenty of potential draftees who have red flags that have little to do with their physical skills, whether it’s criminal charges or NCAA sanctions, not caring enough or lacking discipline. Here’s a look at the top 10 players in this year’s draft that teams will have to take a second look at when it comes down to their character.

1. Janoris Jenkins, CB, North Alabama Jenkins comes into the draft as this year’€™s winner of the unofficial ‘€œcharacter concern’€ trophy (which could have been awarded to current Patriot Ryan Mallett prior to last year’€™s draft) after being booted from Florida following multiple charges and being forced to transfer to Division 2 North Alabama for a season. The father of four children under the age of 4 with three different mothers, Jenkins has three drug arrests on his record from his time at Florida, although he hasn’€™t had a single incident since leaving the school. However, Jenkins did part ways with his agent, Creative Artists Agency’s Ben Dogra, earlier this month, which raised some eyebrows.

2. Donte Paige-Moss, DE, North Carolina — After failing to record a start during his final season at UNC, Paige-Moss’€™ declaration for the 2012 draft acted as a confirmation of sorts regarding speculation that he had been at odds with the team’€™s coaching staff for much of his career. The conflict was made public when he came out on Twitter following the team’€™s loss to Missouri in the 2012 Independence Bowl and called the coaches horrible, called out UNC fans and capped off the tweet with the hash tag ‘€œ#imout.’€ Before he even suited up for the Tar Heels, Paige-Moss was charged with assault after punching a fellow UNC commit before the start of the season. He also was suspended for the Tar Heels’ bowl game after pushing an NC State player following the team’€™s final regular-season game.

3. Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon — Harris entered the draft after Oregon dismissed the junior cornerback for ‘€œviolating team rules’€ while already on indefinite suspension. Prior to the 2011 season, Harris was pulled over while driving 118 mph on the highway, leading to his suspension for the season opener. He was pulled over again in October and was charged with driving without a license, failing to wear a seat belt and not having proper insurance, leading to the indefinite suspension.

4. Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska Just a week ago, Dennard didn’€™t have any major red flags, especially in terms of character concerns. However, after allegations that he punched a police officer early last Saturday morning, teams will be extremely tentative when looking at him on their boards. The timing is what makes the incident such a big issue, as teams won’€™t get much of a chance to look into it or talk to Dennard prior to draft day.

5. Vontaze Burfict, LB, Arizona State Once looked upon as a can’€™t-miss prospect, Burfict now has a reputation across the league as a can’€™t-take player. Though he had an extremely productive career for the Sun Devils and entered the draft as one of college football’€™s most-hyped prospects, his terrible attitude on and off the field has forced more than one team to take him off of the board. One of the biggest knocks against Burfict came from CBS Sports’€™ Bruce Feldman, who quoted a league scout as saying: ‘€œI wouldn’€™t touch him. He does have some talent, but he is so undisciplined on and off the field. The guy is completely out of control. There’€™s no way you could trust him. I can’€™t believe [ASU] didn’€™t cut him loose.’€

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Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Janoris Jenkins,

NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock says Pats will get Perry, Smith

04.25.12 at 3:50 pm ET
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With the first round of the draft now almost 24 hours away, NFL Network Mike Mayock has released his final mock draft, and he has the Patriots going after USC defensive end Nick Perry with the 27th overall pick and Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith at No. 31. For more on Perry, check our look at him as a “Potential Patriot” here. We’ve also got more on Smith here. For a complete look at how Mayock sees the first round breaking down, click HERE.

Read More: 2012 NFL Draft, Harrison Smith, Mike Mayock, Nick Perry
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